Ever since I started using Linux I have always carried a copy of Puppy Linux on a pen drive. I have such a high regard for Puppy Linux that I have a page dedicated to it.
I haven’t reviewed any version of Puppy Linux for a while so with the recent release of Simplicity Linux it seemed like a good time to do so.
The version of Puppy Linux that I have enjoyed using the most is MacPup
. I have had good experiences throughout though and LXPup was definitely a decent release.
Unfortunately distros come and go and LXPup is one of those that is no longer around. Simplicity goes some way to bridge the gap left behind by LXPup.
According to the release page on the Simplicity website the latest version of Simplicity Linux is based on Slacko Linux 5.6.
Simplicity uses the LXDE desktop and has Firefox 24 included as the web browser.
Other notable inclusions are LibreOffice, Skype, WINE, Java, Flash and OnLive.
How to get Simplicity Linux
There are three versions available:
- Obsidian (Minimal)
- Full Desktop
I downloaded the full desktop version for the purposes of this review.
The Simplicity Linux website has an article announcing the 14.1 release but links to downloads all seem to point to the 13.10 release. It is therefore worth clicking the link above.
Puppy Linux is designed to be installed to a USB drive and is ideal for carrying around with you wherever you go and it is ideal for laptops without a hard drive.
The first time that you boot Simplicity Linux you will presented with a “Quick Setup” screen that lets you choose your country, time zone and keyboard layout. You can also choose your computer’s hostname and adjust screen settings.
You might notice a checkbox that says “Run internet apps as spot”. Puppy Linux doesn’t really have the concept of users. Everything you do within Puppy is done as the root user and some people think this is insecure.
The “spot” user is a user that has less privileges and so the option to run as “spot” lets you choose to run internet facing applications with less power, if you are concerned about security.
When you press “OK” you will boot into the main Simplicity interface. Before you get too involved in using Simplicity it is worth rebooting the system as this will give you the opportunity to create a save file.
A save file can be saved anywhere. You can save it on a Windows partition, within a Linux partition or on the same USB drive you used to boot Simplicity.
You will be asked to specify whether the file should be created with an ext2, ext3 or ext4 file system. You will also be asked how big the file should be. Your choice here will be governed by how much you think you will be installing and how much space you think you will use during the course of time.
After you have made your choices the save file will be created and your system will reboot.
The next boot of Puppy Linux takes a bit longer as it sets up the new save file. This is a one time only performance hit and any subsequent boots should be back to normal.
One thing I did notice which was a bit frustrating was that if you chose not to create a save file then you are forced to wait 240 seconds before the computer will shut down.
It may feel like a minor point because most people will want to create a save file. If however you booted from a CD and chose to use one of the internal Puppy tools to create a bootable Flash drive then you will want to reboot into the USB drive without creating a save file.
This review could have been so much different. I started off with a download of Simplicity 13.10 and I had a few issues with installing web browsers, installing applications in general and even shutting down the computer.
Luckily whilst troubleshooting I noticed that the 14.1 release had become available. The experience this time was so much better.
The wallpaper in 14.1 is bright and welcoming, there is a dock at the bottom with the more commonly used applications, there are system style icons in the top right corner and in the top left there are icons for changing workspaces.
The performance is excellent on both my main laptop and on a netbook.
Connecting to the internet
Puppy Linux gives you a number of different ways to perform each task. Simplicity has made connecting to the internet slightly simpler by providing just one application whether you click the network icon on the dock or the system tray. (Other options are probably still available via the Puppy Settings screen).
When you click on the network icon the “Frisbee” network manager appears and you should see a list of wireless networks.
To connect to the internet click on the wireless network of your choice and then enter the security key. It takes a few seconds to connect and there are some verbose messages telling you the stages that Puppy is going through.
Flash and MP3
Flash and Java are installed by default within Simplicity Linux and therefore you will be able to watch Youtube videos and play games online.
The audio player is MPlayer and this was capable of playing MP3 files without issue.
Puppy Linux always has dozens of little applications installed and it is usually impossible to list them all in a review.
To keep it simple here are the common application types and applications that are installed
- Web browser – FireFox
- Email Client – Claws
- Office Suite – LibreOffice
- Media Player – MPlayer
WINE is installed by default and there is a link on the dock to OnLive which enables you to play streaming video games hosted online. You will need a decent internet connection for playing OnLive games and unfortunately it hung for me when I used it.
Other notable software inclusions are Skype and Dropbox.
There are a couple of ways to install applications (pets) in Puppy. The first way is to use the Puppy Package Manager.
In the top left of the screen you will see the software repositories. The “Find” box is used to search for applications and you can narrow results down by category.
If you can’t find what you are looking for then you can adjust your repositories by clicking on the settings icon.
The configuration screen lets you choose which repositories to pull software from. Note that you can choose up to 5 at one time. The “Update now” button refreshes the database for the selected repositories and should be used if you expect to find software in a repository but can’t.
Another way to install software is to use the SlickPet application. This tool contains a list of popular applications such as GIMP, WINE, Chromium etc. You can also find drivers for specific pieces of hardware such as graphics drivers.
The PupControl application gives you access to a number of different applications. If you chose to boot from a Puppy CD for instance, you can use the Boot Flash or F2FS utilities to create a bootable USB drive instead of using UNetbootin.
There are also tools that enable you to remaster Puppy. This means you can create your own version of Puppy with the applications of your choice.
If the default network manager (Frisbee) fails to get you connected to the internet there are a number of other networking tools that may well help with that situation.
Changing the wallpaper
Before signing off it is worth mentioning that there are a number of different wallpapers available for Simplicity and you can change the wallpaper by right clicking on the desktop and selecting preferences.
And before I sign off
As Java is installed by default Minecraft should work as well.
I have to admit that I thought I was going to have a frustrating time with Simplicity because whilst trying 13.10 I came up with a number of issues and it just didn’t work for me.
This however is 14.1 and it works very very well and in fact I haven’t come across any issues of note except for the fact that the OnLive application hangs. (Probably due to my poor internet connection).
Simplicity is a worthy replacement for those of you using LXPup which is no longer being actively developed.
If you have a laptop with a failed hard drive sat in a corner gathering cobwebs then you can easily breathe new life into it by running Simplicity Linux on a USB drive.
Thankyou for reading.